Every year there are tons of animation films that spotlight our furry friends. This year we got Zootopia, The Secret Life of Pets and Sing (if you can even tell the last two apart), not to mention Finding Dory and the motion-captured animals of The Jungle Book, voiced by a legion of A-listers, from Scarlett Johansson to Christopher Walken and Lupita Nyong’o. But we don’t really appreciate live animals in movies enough despite their ability to consistently surprise us with their acting talents.
In the outlandish and extremely reckless 1981 film Roar, which left 70 cast and crew members injured, director Noel Marshall—who also starred alongside his real family members Tippi Hedren and Melanie Griffith—gave co-writing and directing credits to the 100-plus(!!) live animals (which included lions, tigers, and all sorts of wild cats) because their actions dictated the narrative structure of the film. In 2016, none of the animals on this list have even been name-checked in the top bill (even though some definitely deserve it). So we decided it’s time to give these animals their due. If the Academy won’t recognize them, we certainly will. Here are the most iconic (live) animals in film this year.